Can you run a complex warehouse from an iPad?

The ‘brick on a stick’ mobile computer with built in scanning capabilities has reigned as king of the warehouse for handheld barcode scanning for over 30 years. However, research suggests that most major hardware manufacturers are reviewing and revamping their product portfolios and with very good reason.

Modern touch screen devices such as tablets and smartphones cost less than 50% of traditional rugged devices. Very cost effective Android devices can be more than 90% cheaper than their tried and tested bulky big brothers so with vast savings to be made, is now the time to at least trial low cost smart devices in a warehouse?

We ask the question, can you run a complex warehouse operation from an iPad?

Is it a non starter?!


When considering whether your WMS technology can be turned into an iPad warehouse system there are some basic technology requirements that need to be taken into account before an operation can consider implementing these devices;

Operating System (OS)

An operating system (OS) is the low level software which supports the basics of how a device behaves and is often easily identified by its appearance as well as the features it offers.

If you are currently running a non cloud, legacy warehouse management system, you will likely be accessing this from a Microsoft Windows terminal (PC or laptop). These remote user terminals will typically connect to a server within your offices or externally into a data centre.

These late 1990’s systems were built long before cloud technologies (see jargon buster for further details) were mature enough to support a complex, business critical application such as a warehouse management system and as such, are very very unlikely to run effectively on a smart device.

Non cloud, 1990’s systems are very unlikely to run effectively on a smart device

Old systems usually require software to be loaded locally onto the device itself, known as a client install. If this is the case, the application will need a specific operating system on the terminal (PC or laptop) to support the legacy technology, e.g. Microsoft Windows.

Newer operating systems include Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android platform. Apple’s iOS is core to the Apple brand and is well known for its ease of use and mass adoption within the iPhone and iPad. Google’s Android platform is another OS which has been widely adopted by major manufacturers including Samsung as well as Google’s own range of devices.

One thing nearly all OS’ have in common is they are able to run a browser such as IE (internet explorer), Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox.

Having a warehouse system which can run in a browser is the first must have to run a complex warehouse from an iPad, tablet or smart device.


User Interface (UI)

A user interface or UI for short, relates to what a user interacts with when using a software application. Most systems, even ones developed 15+ years ago now utilise a GUI (graphical user interface) to allow users to point and click at icons rather than requiring knowledge of keyboard commands such as F1 to F12 common in the 80’s.

trying to access websites on your mobile device which are not optimised for mobile is painful!

If the GUI has been designed for use on a PC or laptop screen running Microsoft Windows, trying to use this on tablet device, even one running a Windows OS will be a pointless exercise. The screens are just not designed for interacting with a touch screen device.

If you want to make good use of modern touch screen devices e.g. the iPad warehouse system, then you must look for a software provider who has put user experience at the heart of their application design and can offer a browser based application with these devices in mind. Technically being able to run a warehouse system on an iPad doesn’t automatically mean you’d be able to use day to day it without great difficulty.

Think about trying to use a website on your mobile device which is not optimised for mobile – it’s painful!


Why bother? 4 reasons to trial an iPad warehouse system


  • Access anywhere, remove the fixed warehouse station

Working effectively from any location allows freedom. Instant information about your warehouse operation and stock levels on the move will provide a priceless tool for modern buyers, sellers and travelling management teams. Within a large warehouse, removing the need to return to a fixed terminal will also save many hours of time across a large operational team increasing efficiency and saving money. 

  • Low cost, easy to use devices

Putting a traditional, yet very bulky, warehouse scanning device in the hands of an 18 year old in 2016 may raise a few eyebrows! These modern devices are part of our everyday lives so acceptance will be very high among staff. This will result in more information captured rather than users working around the system in favour of e.g. hand written notes.

  • Great features and accessories as standard

Smart devices come with great features. New devices offer good battery life, the ability to take photos of e.g. damaged items along with a range of accessories to make them super rugged and ready for the warehouse. This includes powerful scan engines built into easy to use protective cases. Add to that, if you accidentally shrink-wrap them to a pallet, you can use the ‘find my device’ feature to locate them!

  • Never lose data again

By using a cloud based solution with nothing loaded locally, even the complete destruction or loss of a smart device doesn’t means a loss of much data. Each line is saved task by task so only a tiny amount e.g. the last line of a receipt, might be lost.


Go on, give it a try! It’s great value and low risk


In summary, if you are looking for a truly cross platform, mobile solution built for the future then use the checklist below to ensure true innovation and freedom of working;

  • Is it written using HTML5?
  • Will it adapt to any screen size?
  • Is it built using true cloud technology?
  • Does it run in a browser?
  • Can I access it from anywhere or any device with an internet connection with nothing to load locally?

If the answer is yes to all the above, you’re partnering with a forward thinking software partner providing a ‘ready for’ iPad warehouse management system.

Speak to one of our team about a free trial using smart devices in your warehouse, contact us for more information.